Citing religious texts and evidence of widespread harm to households from high-cost payday loans, a diverse group of faith organizations announced today the formation of a new coalition to combat payday lending and predatory financial practices during a press conference on Capitol Hill.

Members of the Faith for Just Lending coalition include the Center for Public Justice, Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, Ecumenical Poverty Initiative, Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, National Association of Evangelicals, National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., National Latino Evangelical Coalition and the PICO National Network.

While representing distinct institutions with different histories and practices, these faith organizations hold a shared conviction that Scripture speaks to the problem of predatory lending — condemning usury and teaching us to respect the God-given dignity of each person and to love our neighbors rather than exploit their financial vulnerability. They believe that just lending is a matter of biblical morality and religious concern.

Over the past several decades, high-cost lending to those in need has increased significantly. More than 20,000 payday and car-title loan stores operate nationwide. Taking advantage of loopholes and a weakening of traditional usury laws, many of these lenders now offer loans at 300 percent APR, resulting in families being trapped in a cycle of debt. Faith for Just Lending believes the time has come to release the stranglehold that predatory payday lending has on too many lives in communities across the United States.

The coalition also released the following set of principles for just lending:

  • Individuals should manage their resources responsibly and conduct their affairs ethically, saving for emergencies, and being willing to provide support to others in need.
  • Churches should teach and model responsible stewardship, offering help to neighbors in times of crisis.
  • Lenders should extend loans at reasonable interest rates based on ability to repay within the original loan period, taking into account the borrower’s income and expenses.
  • Government should prohibit usury and predatory or deceptive lending practices.

With these principles for just lending, the coalition is urging churches, lenders, individuals and government to each do their part to teach stewardship, offer responsible products, use credit wisely, encourage just lending and put an end to predatory loans. The coalition is calling for an end to the exploitation of households and families through the payday debt trap.